Hey blog world! Last Tuesday, November 20th, was a special day for me. I turned 21! I had such a wonderful Birthday. The celebrations lasted all week and included Chinese takeout, an improv show, several cakes (screech cake, cheesecake and vanilla cake), lots of family time and my favorite Birthday tradition, a night out at Spirit of Newfoundland!
The Christmas season at Spirit always begins on or around my Birthday. I make a point every year to go out with one or two close friends and/or family members to see the Christmas show as a special early or belated celebration. Last Friday, I chose to spend my special Birthday evening with my new boyfriend Jordan and our friend Jim from the Best Buddies program (click the link for more info on Best Buddies, it’s an amazing organization I highly recommend becoming part of!)
This year’s Christmas production is a rerun of “Christmas Around The World”, a show, written by Peter Halley that Spirit performed back in Christmas 2013. I was there to see it during it’s original run and really enjoyed it, so I was quite excited when I heard they were doing this again. I was eager to see how they would revamp it for 2018. Click here to view my review of the original 2013 production of the show.
Jim was excited to come to the show as well! He had never been to a dinner theatre before and was really looking forward to seeing the show and trying the food. Jordan on the other hand was not as excited. He didn’t think he would like it (musicals aren’t his thing). I hoped he would change his tune by the end of the evening.
When we arrived at the Masonic Temple, it was like we had stepped into a winter wonderland! I wish I had thought to take pictures! The decorations were mesmerizing! There were rainbow colored reindeer, lots of pretty colored lights, beautifully decorated Christmas trees, and what I thought was a really nice touch was Santa’s nice list was hung from the balcony of the stage and it contained the names of many employees of Spirit of Newfoundland and something nice about them (i.e, Erin: sweet, just like her dad, Adam: tech wizard). What a lovely and thoughtful gesture.
When the doors to the main room opened, Jordan, Jim and I found our table and sat down. We began to tuck into the breadbasket that was filled with Spirit of NL’s absolutely mouthwatering homemade sourdough bead! To go with the bread, there were different types of homemade butter. Jim fell absolutely in love with one that was made with I believe sun dried tomato (at least, that’s what it tasted like to me, correct me if I’m wrong chef Darrell). Seriously, after the bread was gone and our server came around to clear the basket off our table, he was going to take the plate of butter away, but Jim asked him to leave it there and he ate the rest of the sun-dried tomato butter with his spoon! Still a better love story than Twilight! Ha! By the way, chef Darrell, if you come across this, Jim wants your recipe! He has been begging me to ask you for it!
For our appetizer that evening, we were served a savory sweet potato soup with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and white wine garnished with a garlic aoli. I am not a fan of sweet potato, but gave this soup a try to see if the white wine, cinnamon, etc. would perhaps mask the flavor and make it a bit more palatable. It wasn’t the best thing I’d ever eaten (that being said, I mean no disrespect to Darrell, sweet potato just isn’t my thing!) but it wasn’t awful. Jim and Jordan however both really enjoyed the soup. Jordan went so far as to say it was one of the best he’d had!
Our main course that evening was a choice between traditional turkey dinner or stuffed pork loin filled with apple & cranberry stuffing and topped with an apricot reduction. I chose the pork and Jim and Jordan opted for the turkey.
The pork was very nice, tender and flavorful. The stuffing was delicious as well! All the different flavors paired excellently with each other. My meal came with a side of vegetables, carrots, mashed turnip and mashed potato. The mashed potato was firetrucking incredible!!!! I don’t know what Darrell did to it, but it was so fluffy and creamy and absolutely perfect!
Not long after we ate, the show began. That evening, Kara Noftle was in the role of Mrs. Claus. I thought she looked lovely in her costume and I really liked the New York esque accent that she had. In this scene, she was on the phone with a friend of hers and had quite a shocking confession to make… she was thinking of leaving Santa Claus!!! He’s sullen, crooked as sin, drinks too much egg nog, and between preparing for Christmas and flying around the world, he hasn’t much time for her.
Leaving the audience with a cliff-hanger, wondering whether or not she is going to go through with her plan, the whole cast of the show (Michael Power, Keith Power (no relation), Dana Parsons and Kara) came out in plain-clothes and sang a song about Christmas around the world set to the tune of Bony M’s “Rivers Of Babylon”. It was a lot of fun! I was dancing and singing along the whole time!
After singing the song, they shared some worldly Christmas traditions. Pop quiz: What’s traditional Christmas dinner in Japan? If you guessed any sort of Japanese fare you are wrong! Sushi, mochi and other traditional Japanese dishes do not grace the table on Christmas Day, instead they dine on KFC (or, as Michael Power so eloquently puts it, “dead bird in a box”!) We also learn that in Italy, instead of writing letters to Santa, children write letters to their parents telling them how much they love them! Isn’t that the sweetest thing! I thought that was so lovely.
As they talked about the various Christmas traditions, they sang Christmas songs from various places all over the world. I loved every song they sang during this segment, but Venezuela, Italy and Mexico were certainly my top three favorites! In Venezuela, they have a rather unique way of getting to mass, they roller-skate! The cast put on invisible roller blades and skated around the stage as they sang “Feliz Navidad”. After singing through the chorus once, Michael announces it’s time to reverse skating at which point, they jump up, turn around and go the other way! I thought that was really cool! After singing that song, Michael says to the audience that people in Newfoundland would sing the song a little differently and he begins to sing “Police Got My Car” by Newfoundland parody artist Snook! Jordan and I both nearly bust a gut we were laughing so hard!
As I said above, Italy has the lovely Christmas tradition of children leaving letters for their parents. Christmas and children inspired a very cute little song that the cast then sang for us called “Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey”. The chorus of that song made me laugh a lot!
When they got to Mexico, they sang one of my favorite Christmas songs, “The Hat I Got For Christmas Is Too Big”! It’s such a funny song! Even funnier was when Keith sang “Can’t tell one thing from another I got married to my brother!” and then on the screen above the stage appeared a (photo-shopped) wedding photo of Keith marrying his identical twin!
Next, they talked about toys! They shared Time Magazine’s list of the top 10 most influential toys from the 20’s to the present day. It was fun looking back at what toys were most popular in which era. One thing that really surprised me during this segment was something that Michael said when they were talking about the Tickle Me Elmo. Apparently, a Wal-Mart employee in New Brunswick was trampled when parents saw him carrying a box full of those toys! And I thought Black Friday in the states was bad!! My word!
The corner by’s made a return to Spirit of Newfoundland’s stage that evening and I was thrilled to see them! It had been a year since I had seen skeets/hard tickets grace the stage at Spirit and I missed them and their antics. Keith, Dana and Michael always knock it out of the park when they play skeets. Their accents, mannerisms, everything about them is absolutely hysterical! One thing I love about Michael’s skeet character is this. The corner by’s always have a puff of their (fake) smoke when they are on stage and Michael blows smoke rings! I’ve seen him do this multiple times and it still never ceases to amaze me! It’s the coolest thing!
A little later, we return to Mrs. Claus’ office in the North Pole to see her once again on the phone with her friend. I don’t want to spoil the show for those who haven’t seen it, so I won’t say much about what they talk about, all I will say is that she has written a letter to Santa expressing her feelings. At the end of this scene, she begins to wonder if this is really what she wants. She then sings Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas”. Kara did a beautiful job on this song. It sounded so pretty!
We also take a trip to Vegas during act 1! Skip Stone the Vegas comic comes out to tell a few jokes. I liked the ones about his mother in law, I thought those were very funny. I didn’t get the one about lobster tail and beer (there was a deal on lobster tail and beer at a hotel and he said he would take that in as those are his three favorite things), but everyone else in the room laughed. He also told a joke about Elvis that I found was rather cheesy. What did Elvis say to his gardener? Thank you, thank you for the mulch.
After the jokes, Skip announced that there were a few celebrities in the building who were going to come out and perform! First up was Cher! Dana’s Cher always has me rolling! It’s a spot on and very, very funny impression!
A little later, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton arrived! Whenever Kenny Rogers takes part in a show at Spirit of Newfoundland, they like to have a little fun at his expense, the actor playing Kenny always wears a stocking over their face! I commend Michael for his amazing performance. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to perform with that stocking distorting your face! Nevertheless, he did a fantastic job. He nailed the voice, was very funny and gave an excellent performance of “I’ll Be Home With Bells On”!
Dolly and Cher had a little sing-off. They each walked out into the audience and sang snippets of a few of their greatest hits. It amazes me how Dana sounds almost exactly like Cher! Close your eyes and you’d swear it really was her! Kara did a fantastic Dolly impression. I loved it when the girls would interact with unsuspecting men in the audience. In almost every show, one of the female cast members will often go out into the audience in search of an empty lap to sit on and once they find one, they sit down and serenade that person. The reactions of the lucky audience members are always priceless!
After this, it was time for desert, screech cake! It’s the most delicious cake you will ever eat! The screech caramel sauce that’s paired with it is delicious as well. It’s got a nice hint of sweetness that contrasts very well with the strength of the rum in the sauce and the cake. Jordan had had it once before when I had my family party at my house. He really enjoyed it then and did so again that night. I was very excited to see what Jim thought of the cake as he had never had it before. He thought it was absolutely delicious! I was so glad that he liked it!
In act two, there is another list! This time, it’s the list of the top 10 best selling Christmas songs of all time. Michael, Dana and Keith do this segment and they do it excellently! The harmonies are wonderful! There were a few songs on the list that I wasn’t surprised to see such as “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and “White Christmas”. However, there was one that I was very surprised by. That was #2 on the list, a song by one of my least favorite artists; “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber. Now, while I absolutely hate Justin Bieber, I will admit that I do like the song. It’s literally the only one of his songs that I don’t mind, but, I only like it the way that Keith does it. Justin’s voice just really gets to me.
#1 on the list was Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Dana absolutely slayed that song! She brought the house down! It was my favorite musical performance of the night! The wind machine and the snow were a really nice touch during this performance!
We also get to hear a special Open Line segment hosted by Paddy Daly (Keith) about Newfoundlander’s favorite Christmas traditions! Each caller was very funny and entertaining in their own way, I can’t pick a favorite!
My favorite skit in the show was Michael’s “Christmas Reflections From Around The Bay” monologue. It was about Poppy John, originally from Capelin Cove, who was now living in St. John’s to be closer to his family and one memorable Christmas he spent in his daughter’s home. His grandchildren were all in a frenzy opening their presents, squealing and laughing, and there was no order to it at all, everything was open it now, eat it now, wear it now, etc. There was so much noise and chaos, and then suddenly, everything stopped. The lights went out, the music stopped playing, there was no more beeping and buzzing. So, as hot chocolate and tea was made on the stove, Poppy John told stories of his Christmases in Capelin Cove. This monologue is so beautiful, so much so that it always brings a tear or two to my eye and it makes my heart feel warm and fuzzy. I have a real soft spot for seniors. One thing that I thought made the monologue even more sweet and lovely this year was that Poppy John tells us how he would just sit there like a puppet saying “That’s a dandy Michael!”, “Only the best for you Lilly!”, this year he added in “That’ll fit you in a few years Percy!” Percy is Peter Halley’s new baby nephew (and the most handsome little human on the face of the earth I might add!) I thought it was so nice that he is now included in the monologue along with Michael and Lilly his big brother and sister.
As the show neared the end, we were treated to a medley of Christmas songs. Dana began with a beautiful rendition of James Taylor’s “Some Children See Him”, then the whole cast moved onto a breathtaking performance of one of my favorite Christmas carols, “When A Child Is Born”. By the end of that piece of the medley I had goosebumps and a few more tears in my eyes!
Soon, the skeets come back and Michael announces that he is going to join the Basilica’s church choir next Christmas. Keith doesn’t sound so sure about Michael singing gospel. Michael then whips a microphone out of his pocket and puts Keith in his place. He gives us a powerful and soulful performance of “Go Tell It On The Mountain”.
It would be remiss of me to be this far down in the blog post and not mention the magnificent band that was on stage that night! There was Evan Smith on piano, Boomer Stamp on drums, Frank Fusari on bass and Brad Jefford on the guitar, a stellar lineup if you ask me! Each one is exceptionally talented and together they made awesome music!
At the end of the show, I asked Jordan what he thought of it. He said it was amazing! It was funny and very entertaining! He was very glad he came and can’t wait to come back! Yay! I was thrilled to hear that he liked it that much! Jim was in the same boat, he absolutely loved the show and wants to come back soon too.
Before we left, I got to introduce Jordan to my friends in the cast and we got a picture together as well! Jordan really enjoyed meeting and talking to them all. I’m so glad that he did.
“Christmas Around The World” was a phenomenal show from start to finish, a perfect way to cap off my 21st Birthday celebrations! If you would like to see this show, it is running until January 6th. Click here, or call 579-3023 to make your reservation!
But wait… there’s more! Spirit is also doing Christmas luncheons featuring the rotating cast of Peter Halley and Shelley Neville and Evan Smith and Kara Noftle. While you enjoy a delicious three course buffet style lunch, the performers, along with a three piece band (Frank Fusari, Bill Brennan and Boomer Stamp), will sing Christmas carols! Lastly, back by popular demand, Spirit is taking its Newfoundland adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss Christmas tale to a much larger scale as they perform “Grinch Dressing & Gravy” at the Holy Heart Theatre on December 12th and 13th. To purchase your tickets for that show (which I highly recommend you do!) click here, or call 579-4424.